Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Political Science


Political Science

Major Advisor

Jaclyn J. Kettler


Lori Hausegger


Gary F. Moncrief


Louisiana, Washington, and California have changed their primary election system to top-two primary systems. In this system, candidates are no longer nominated by voters in their own party. Instead, the two candidates receiving the most votes proceed to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. Proponents of the reform argue that it will moderate their state legislatures, helping to reduce gridlock and polarization. The parties and politicians argue that it will not change anything, but rather harm those in office and those who are running for office. Little research had been done on the validity of reformers claims, and most has focused on what impact it had on specific states. This research evaluates the impact of top-two primaries on state legislature ideology in two of the states that have implemented this reform, along with control states to account for outside variables. This comparative research demonstrates that the top-two primary makes liberal states even more liberal and makes legislatures more ideologically homogeneous.